Carlisle County school bus driver Mahlon Thomas, known in his community for his acts of kindness, was presented with the 2023 Fred Award by the Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA).
The Fred Award is named after Fred Shea, a postal carrier who was the focus of a book written by Mark Sanborn called “The Fred Factor.” The award recognizes Kentucky school employees who go above and beyond in their job duties and performance.
Thomas was presented with the award on July 28 at the KASA Annual Leadership Institute in Louisville.
“Mahlon’s bond with both students and adults is obvious by the time he invests outside of the work environment,” said nominator Dustin Roberts, director of pupil personnel and for Carlisle County’s transportation department. “He is truly a living legend in Carlisle County!”
Thomas has been a part of the Carlisle County School District for most of his life. Growing up, he went through the district as a student. He then came back as a teacher, and decided in the early 1980s to become a bus driver while also teaching in the elementary school.
“That’s what I try to do with people,” said Thomas. “Just be a friend and be someone that they can talk to or someone they can depend on.”
Within Carlisle County, Thomas is more than a bus driver. His acts of kindness include creating scrap books for high school athletes, creating memorial plaques when someone loses a loved one and baking treats for his co-workers.
Finalists for the award must embody four guiding principles: make a positive difference each day; have a heart for people; change ordinary moments into memorable ones; and lead by example.
After nearly 41 years as a bus driver, Roberts said Thomas has impacted the lives of many throughout the community.
“His smile is infectious and his attitude is unmatched,” he said. “As the world around us continues to become less and less positive, Mahlon keeps carrying the torch to make the world a better place.”
Thomas said that many people have thanked him for all that he has done but says he doesn’t do these acts of kindness to receive these praises. Instead, he says it was just one of those things he was taught.
“You should love your fellow man and do whatever you can do to make that individual happy or feel better about himself or herself,” he said.
KASA is the largest school administrator group in Kentucky, representing more than 3,100 education leaders from across the Commonwealth. Formed in 1969, KASA connects education leaders to policymakers, legislators and other interest groups, and provides numerous benefits and services to Kentucky’s school administrators.